Santa Ana, California: "Churches should be safe sanctuaries not places where sexual predators groom unsuspecting children and prey on them," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said when announcing charges against a pastor. "The sexual abuse of children is unacceptable and it will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
57-year-old Carlos Ramirez Valdez was arrested on Friday, September 17, and on Wednesday September 22, the Orange County District Attorney's Office announced that he was facing a total of eight felony counts.
Valdez has been charged with five counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14, and three counts of oral copulation or sexual penetration of a child 10 or younger. All charges against him are felonies and if convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum possible sentence of 120 years to life in state prison.
The assaults are said to have occurred between 2014 and 2019, but investigators have not ruled out the possibility that there could be more victims.
Described as a male Hispanic standing 5' 05" and weighing 175 pounds with short grey hair and a mustache, Valdez pastored at International Mission Church USA located in Santa Ana according to the Santa Ana Police Department. He was previously involved at the Iglesia De Dios Ebenezer Church, also in Santa Ana.
According to the arrest notification from the Santa Ana Police, Valdez is accused of luring an 8-year-old girl between 2014 and 2017 out of the Iglesia church during service to his van or the church's basement where he repeatedly sexually abused her. The girl reported the abuse to a school counselor.
In January 2020 another girl reported to Garden Grove police that she had been assaulted by Valdez in 2015 at the age of 9. The assault is said to have happened when Valdez provided her with a ride home from church because "the main pastor was not available."
Also in January 2020 a girl reported to the Riverside Police that she had been assaulted in 2017 when she was outside playing. She was 8-years-old at the time.
Valdez is being held on $1 million bail at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange and is scheduled to be arraigned on October 6, 2021.
Investigators are asking that anyone with information about other potential victims contact Santa Ana Police Detective J. Gaeta at (714) 245-8350 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those wishing to submit tips anonymously may do so through Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS (847-6227).